How the Miami F1 GP has prepared for Florida’s natural hazards

Miami International Autodrome, the home of Formula 1’s new Grand Prix on the American East Coast, has taken precautions against the natural hazards that South Florida can provide.

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Due to its location at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, F1's newest racetrack – designed and overseen by UK firm Apex Circuit Design – has had to fit in with its environment.

From the busy stadium usage side, the Miami Open tennis tournament required that a stretch from Turn 3 to Turn 5 was Astroturfed to prevent any potential damage from spectators, and plastic track protection covers were placed for hospitality truck deliveries as the courts were positioned in various areas around the track.

Miami track build overview

Miami track build overview

Photo by: Charles Bradley

While the Miami Open ended on April 3, allowing Apex’s crew to regain full access to their entire F1 track again, another impact that won’t go away is from the natural world: The venue’s owner, real estate magnate and Miami Dolphins NFL boss Stephen Ross, is very particular about how his stadium fits in and looks in its surroundings.

“The owner, Mr Ross, loves greenery and he loves his landscaping,” said Apex’s project director Sam Worthy. “The stadium itself makes a very concentrated effort to have as much greenery as possible, especially when it comes to old-growth trees. 

“So all the trees that overhang our track naturally, we’ve tried to keep as many branches in place and retain the leaf coverage over it. It certainly looks very nice; not many circuits have anything like this, and we’ve discussed it with the FIA – who’ve been here on three separate track walks. They’re also happy to see it.

Miami track overview

Miami track overview

Photo by: Charles Bradley

“One challenge has been to physically fit the debris fencing around them, and at the same time having procedures to ensure there are no loose branches that could fall.”

Many of these trees in question are on the 199mph back stretch between Turns 16 and 17.

Running parallel to the 1.2km straight is a waterway named Snake Creek that stretches to Maule Lake in North Miami Beach – and wherever you see water in this area, you’ll likely find feral Green Iguanas that can grow up to six feet in length and weigh over 20 pounds.

Green iguana

Green iguana

Photo by: Helen Bradley

Worthy added: “We certainly don’t want a giant iguana falling on one of the F1 drivers, because that would be a problem! When it gets cold here, they can just drop out of trees because they are cold blooded and shut down. That isn’t a problem in May, but they can still climb trees and jump out or crawl across the track.

“We have procedures in place to have the marshals come around and poke into the openings [in the concrete walls] to ensure none are hiding in there or up in the trees. It’s a pretty unique thing to have to deal with!

“There’s also some waterfowl and ducks, and a few snakes. But the iguanas are the biggest issue for us. So the marshals will be issued with nets for the iguanas, and the focus will be on capture and then release them somewhere away from the track.”

While iguanas are an invasive species to Florida, local natural phenomena include thunderstorms that tend to build in frequency towards the summer months. Big electrical storms can lead to flash flooding, so Apex has been working with the best in the business to cope with that threat – given the track is just a few miles inland from the sea and has an extremely high water table.

Miami track overview

Miami track overview

Photo by: Charles Bradley

“You won’t see our slot drains on any other track yet," said Worthy. “We worked with [drain specialists] ACO to design them for this Miami track. As we’re so close to the water table, we need everything as shallow as it can be to give us the ability to efficiently move the water further and further away. 

“A traditional slot drain is too deep, so these ones move the water into the drainage pipes from much higher than usual and we can therefore run over longer distances with a gravity feed. 

“There is a very efficient drainage system throughout the site [including vast storage tanks underneath the stadium]. The ACO solutions we jointly developed work well with the kerbs, and they also look nice.”

Weather forecasters are predicting a 40% chance of rain on Sunday, with shower chances increasing from the race’s start time of 15:30 local.

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